UPDATE #4: Sen. Mark Udall weighs in with congratulations:
Colorado has served as a model for the nation on finding the right balance between protecting our clean air and water, safely developing our abundant energy resources, and safeguarding our communities and our public health. I have been proud to champion efforts to strike that balance by bringing together Democrats, Republicans, the oil and gas industry, conservationists, and citizen groups.
From the beginning, I have pressed everyone involved to find a balanced way forward and to work toward a collaborative solution. I am proud this engagement yielded results, and I applaud Governor Hickenlooper and Congressman Polis for reaching this compromise.
UPDATE #3: Conservation Colorado's statement:
Conservation Colorado believes local governments have a historical right and responsibility to protect the public health and environment of their communities from land use impacts of industrial activities like drilling and fracking. We applaud Congressman Polis’ strong advocacy for his constituents and on behalf of many other Coloradans concerned over the impacts of oil and gas drilling on Colorado communities.
We congratulate Congressman Polis and Governor Hickenlooper for working diligently to bring this complicated issue to a good public policy result. No Coloradan should have to wake up and see a drilling rig over their back fence and worry that their families health or quality of life will be adversely impacted.
UPDATE #2: Gov. John Hickenlooper's statement announcing the new task force to recommend legislation for 2015:
“Colorado is fortunate to have an abundance of energy resources, and we have an obligation to develop them in a way that is safe for our residents, supports jobs and the economy, respects private property rights and protects our environment,” Hickenlooper said.
“The work of this task force will provide an alternative to ballot initiatives that, if successful, would have regulated the oil and gas industry through the rigidity of Constitutional amendments and posed a significant threat to Colorado’s economy. This approach will put the matter in the hands of a balanced group of thoughtful community leaders, business representatives and citizens who can advise the legislature and the executive branch on the best path forward.”
…Hickenlooper expressed confidence in Colorado’s existing set of regulations as developed and enforced by the COGCC and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Those agencies have undertaken four major rulemakings addressing oil and gas development since 2011. That included a year-long public process to develop a new setback standard, which took effect last year.
“Recognizing the value of energy and our environment, and managing that balance, can be difficult but it’s something we’ve always been able to do in Colorado. Collectively, we have one of the strongest regulatory approaches in the country, and we will continue to build on that record to protect our world-class environment while providing the flexibility necessary to develop our important energy resources,” Hickenlooper said.
UPDATE: Full statement from Rep. Jared Polis after the jump. Excerpt:
In 2011 I visited with concerned parents in Erie who were distressed over plans to locate several fracking rigs next to Red Hawk Elementary School. They asked for my help, and I immediately called upon the operators to reconsider the location of those wells. For weeks I sent letters, I had conference calls with oil and gas executives and I plead with them to not move forward with these ill advised plans to place fracking rigs dangerously close to children's elementary school. In the end my pleas and the pleas of these concerned parents for reasonable setbacks from their kids elementary school fell on deaf ears. I told those parents and my constituents that I would not give up the fight, that I would continue pushing for responsible regulations that protect them and I have devoted a considerable amount of my time doing just that ever since.
I believe today's announcement is a victory for the people of Colorado and the movement to enact sensible fracking regulations. I know for many today's announcement will not go far enough, but I believe it's just the beginning of next chapter.
9NEWS' Brandon Rittiman reports, a press conference at the Colorado Capitol is getting underway now:
Environmentalists and the governor's office struck a last-minute deal to withdraw all proposed ballot initiatives to restrict fracking for the November election, defusing a political time bomb that had driven a wedge between liberal and pro-business Democrats…
The deal does include some immediate concessions to environmentalists to avoid the Polis-backed initiatives.
The governor's office has agreed to withdraw the state from a lawsuit against Longmont over the city's voter-enacted ban on fracking.
In addition, the governor has committed to more rigorously enforce a 1000-foot setback, the distance that must separate oil and gas drilling from existing buildings.
FOX 31's Eli Stokols:
Polis has also requested that the industry withdraw two of its own initiatives: Initiative 121, which stipulates that communities that limit oil and gas activity would be prohibited from receiving state severance tax revenues from oil and gas development; and Initiative 137, which would require the fiscal impact of each initiative be estimated earlier in the process and included in the Colorado Blue Book.
Backers of those initiatives submitted signatures ahead of Monday’s deadline but may be willing to drop them before the ballot is finalized in September.
At first blush, it does appear Rep. Jared Polis has extracted significant concessions from Gov. John Hickenlooper as part of this agreement–withdrawing the state from the suit over Longmont's fracking moratorium, and better enforcement of setbacks between drilling and other developments like homes and schools. Bigger setbacks for drilling was one of the two ballot measures Polis was working on. Polling from supporters of Polis' ballot measures showed they had a solid and enduring chance–even after opponents' arguments against–of passing this November. Today's agreement allows Polis and conservationists to claim victory without that long and costly ballot fight, which some Democrats worried could be divisive for the general election.
Instead, Polis comes out a winner with tangible deliverables resulting from his effort–and Hickenlooper shows his remarkable knack for making the lion lay down with the lamb yet again. We'll update after today's press conference with more coverage and details.
STATEMENT FROM REP. JARED POLIS
Today, I stood with Governor Hickenlooper and announced several solid steps forward to deal with the impacts of oil and gas on local communities. My constituents have been vocal in their concerns of oil and gas development taking place too close to where they live work and play- I have heard their call and done everything in my power to bring their legitimate concerns forward. In 2011 I visited with concerned parents in Erie who were distressed over plans to locate several fracking rigs next to Red Hawk Elementary School. They asked for my help, and I immediately called upon the operators to reconsider the location of those wells. For weeks I sent letters, I had conference calls with oil and gas executives and I plead with them to not move forward with these ill advised plans to place fracking rigs dangerously close to children's elementary school. In the end my pleas and the pleas of these concerned parents for reasonable setbacks from their kids elementary school fell on deaf ears. I told those parents and my constituents that I would not give up the fight, that I would continue pushing for responsible regulations that protect them and I have devoted a considerable amount of my time doing just that ever since.
I believe today's announcement is a victory for the people of Colorado and the movement to enact sensible fracking regulations. I know for many today's announcement will not go far enough, but I believe it's just the beginning of next chapter. For the first time in this fight, citizens will have a seat at the negotiating table. They will be able to negotiate directly to protect their property rights, homes values, clean water, and air quality with the oil and gas industry. The Task Force will be co-chaired by La Plata County Commissioner Gwen Lachelt who began her career as a community organizer in Durango for Western Colorado Congress, then went on to found Earthworks' Oil & Gas Accountability Project. Gwen now serves as a County Commissioner for La Plata County and has experienced first hand the challenges of the current laws as it pertains to local control of oil and gas.
I am thrilled that in an act of good faith the Governor has called upon the COGCC to dismiss the pending lawsuit against Longmont. The Governor has reiterated his commitment to enforcing all current laws and regulations, including a setback rule that states that operators must make every effort to place wells at least 1,000 ft from occupied structures.
These immediate steps give me great hope that together we will forge a solution that works for all of Colorado. Given my renewed hope that my constituents will be able to shape the statewide fracking policy through the legislative process as soon as the next legislative session, I am withdrawing my financial support for the proposed ballot initiatives. To be clear, I am not giving up this fight, I will continue to push for greater health and safety for my constituents through every avenue available to me. My sincere hope is that the legislature will heed the concerns of thousands of Coloradans that have demanded reasonable safeguards from oil and gas development. I want to thank all the community organizers that have worked tirelessly to bring their concerns to the forefront and have demanded action on this important issue. There is still a great amount of work to be done, but today represents real progress.